In Memoriam: HARBAJAN SINGH VEDI
He fought death for over 20 months boldly and valiantly as he fought for his principles and ideals all his life. Harbhajan Singh Vedi went into a deep sleep forever (he hated usage of word like passed away or died) on August 24 at the Amiri Hospital in a distant land which became his home for about five decades.
Proverbial a story from rags to riches, Mr Vedi enthusiasm for life was unlimited. He stood strongly for what he believed and never cowed down to threats or adversity that came up his life. It was this amazing trait in his personality that made his a towering figure in the Indian community and also the most visible face of the Indian community in the royal family of Kuwait.
An incident reflects explicitly how he endeared himself with the Royal family of Kuwait.
While walking away after the grand ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan (President House) in New Delhi in 2006, His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah stopped and shook hands with a diminutive man standing in the VIP enclosures set up to greet the visiting dignitary.
"How are you my friend? You are here," the Amir said holding his hand, then smiled and walked with President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh towards his cavalcade.
The man honored by H.H. the Amir with this rare gesture was none other than the President of Indian Citizen Committee Kuwait, Harbhajan Singh Vedi, who five decades ago landed in Kuwait, empty handed but with a dream; a dream that many see when they arrive here in this land of plenty.
Vedi was among many Indians who landed in a ship on 24th March, armed only with a degree in architecture but with a load of determination to make big in life. Back home, he had a large family of many brothers and sister and aged parents to support who were living in a state of penury.
Getting a petty job in a construction company, Vedi’s skill in architecture and his incisive work soon began to speak for itself and in a couple of years he had made his presence known in Kuwait market. As luck springs surprises many a time, the petro dollar boom in early 1970's saw a major surge in construction activities across the Gulf. Soon Vedi found himself flooded with so much work that he floated his own company. Success had finally arrived for him at his doorstep.
It was not in Kuwait alone; Vedi’s firm began to spread its tentacles in Iraq, Sudan, UAE, Oman executing major projects that came their way. In the boom period, he led a task force of over 16,000 workers spread across many countries.
Vedi reputation and hard work soon found its echo in the royal family as he procured many assignments to design palaces, chalets and villas for the royalty. His personal relation with H.H. the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah grew when he designed many of his work. It may be mentioned that the late Amir too had minute eyes for architectural work.
In many of the visits of the royal family members to India, it was Vedi who accompanied them. He became the known Indian face in the Kuwait royal family, a fact that was acknowledged by former Indian Ambassador M. Ganapathi when he told some Indian community members that he was happy that Mr Vedi is the best acknowledged man in the ruling family from the Indian community.
Vedi’s love for Kuwait manifested during the tragic invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Husain regime in 1990.He stayed behind during that troubled time and along with some Indians floated Indian Citizens Committee to help evacuate the large Indian community, which by then constituted some 1,70,000 souls. By far it was an arduous task in such a hostile environment.
Procuring the Indian embassy building whose officials had left en masse, Vedi got in touch with the Indian government and the then External Affairs I. K. Gujral who later became the Prime Minister of India, to plan the evacuation process. The Indian Citizen Committee was empowered the task and it was through his effort that safe passage was granted through Iraq.
The evacuation was recorded in the Guinness Book of World record. Mr Gujral later accepted the great work done by the ICC in a special message to its chief H. S. Vedi which was printed in the souvenir. Many former Indian Ambassadors too poured their messages of appreciation for the remarkable work done by ICC during that troubled time.
But for Vedi as he said in his welcome speech in honour of visiting former Indian Union Minister for Steel Mines and Fertiliser Ram Vilas Paswan who flew in specially to attend the ICC function in 2008 that it was nothing but the debt he owed to the country that gave him so much. "I preferred to stay behind in Kuwait to share the horror and trouble that my fellow Kuwait brothers were undergoing," he told Indian Minister Paswan.
Many awards came his way but the most significant he says was when President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam invited him for the state banquet he hosted in honor of H.H. the Amir in 2006 during the historic visit. “I treat this invitation as an award as I could greet H.H. the Amir and President Kalam together, both the greatest personalities of our time.”
The Kuwait government indeed recognised his immense contribution in bringing India and Kuwait closer and Mr Vedi was among the few Indian who do not need a sponsor. He was self sponsored, a testimony of the affection he attracts in Kuwait.
Mr Vedi was in deep love with Kuwait, its people, its calmness and its laws. Despite knowing that he could have got the best treatment in India, he preferred to return to Kuwait in June. If not premonition, it was his love for this land that brought him here. Surely he wanted to breathe his last as a tribute to Kuwait, a country that gave him so much love and affection.
May his soul rest in peace
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